Holy Flower Is a Fly's Egg, And Buddha Isn't Coming

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Holy Flower Is a Fly's Egg, And Buddha Isn't Coming

To Buddhists, the udambara is an imaginary holy flower that blooms every 3,000 years. Legend has it that Buddha will return when the flower blooms.

Monks at three Buddhist temples - Yonju Hermitage on Mount Kwanak, Kwangsu Temple in Daejon and Chunggye Temple on Mount Chunggye - recently claimed that the flower had bloomed in their temples at the same time.

However, Buddhist authorities became angry with scientists who pointed out that the supposed flower was just the egg of a lacewing fly, which is a kind of dragonfly. Amid the recriminations, another explanation has complicated the argument - or perhaps made things clearer.

"The fly's egg is the udambara, so Buddhists and scientists are all correct," said the Reverend Daewon of Yonju Hermitage.

On Oct. 22, Mr. Daewon gave the supposed flower to Koh Hyun-kwan, an entomologist, or insect specialist, at the National Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, to determine whether the cause of the excitement was a flower or an insect's egg. After studying it, he said it was an egg.

"I accept the scientists' logical explanation," Mr. Daewon said. "People must understand that the fly egg and the udambara that Buddhists believe in are actually the same thing."

To support his argument, Mr. Daewon referred to Korea's biggest collection of dictionaries, including a dictionary of Chinese characters.

A dictionary of Buddhist terms says "udamhwa" or udam flower is "a flower that blooms when Buddha returns to the Earth" and an "an egg of a kind of dragonfly hanging on a plant." Korea's Dongah Dictionary defines the udambara as an "imaginary Buddhist flower" and a "lacewing fly egg."

"So it be it," Mr. Daewon said. "It was an egg, after all. But we shouldn't think this is a lot of fuss about nothing. In fact, it is a very auspicious sign for such a tiny thing to appear in the form of a Buddha."

In other words, he said, "In the eyes of Buddha everything is Buddha in itself. Why not a fly egg?"

Mr. Daewon plans to give a sermon on the issue, not just for Buddhists but for anyone interested in understanding and interpreting Buddhist beliefs.

Mr. Koh, the entomologist, said: "It's a welcome sign to see the reverend accepting the truth with such flexibility instead of condemning the result."


by Oh Byung-sang

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